Writer/director Sean Durkin’s first film follows a young woman who joins and then decides to leave a cult. Martha Marcy May Marlene opens with a scene that establishes the insidious heart of the matter: Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), who has just run away from a compound in the woods that a cult led by Patrick (John Hawkes) calls home, sits in a diner and is approached by one of the male cult members. She tells him she isn’t coming back; he simply gets up and leaves without looking back. The rest of the film, which ties together Martha’s attempt to readjust to life with her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her life as “Marcy May” in Patrick’s clan, shows why Martha may have abandoned her old life and why the man in the diner doesn’t need to take her back. Here is a life ruined. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
With the Shrek series (hopefully) at an end, Puss in Boots is an attempt to expand the universe of the previous series–or perhaps it’s just a way for a studio to keep its cash cow from drying up to soon. Puss in Boots (voice of Antonio Banderas) is a charming little fellow who managed to steal the second Shrek movie from under the noses of established characters and a cavalcade of new ones, and that charm carries over during the start of the movie as we become re-familiarized with him. Once his own adventures gets going (with an extended flashback as exposition and little play on fairy tales), though, it becomes clear that sometimes supporting characters should stay as such. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D on Friday, February 24.
Tower Heist has a talented cast, a sociopath of a villain, and a central setpiece that involves multiple people and a 2,000-pound car dangling hundreds of feet in the air. Ben Stiller plays the manager of a luxury condo building who finds himself leading a ragtag group of would-be thieves (including Eddie Murphy) after the building’s owner (Alan Alda) takes his employees’ pension money to cover a series of bad investments. It’s breezy stuff and also entirely insubstantial. That might be fine, but the screenplay leaves more than a few important plot points dangling, most noticeably a 2,000-pound one. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
There’s a strong dissonance between Dustin Lance Black’s screenplay and Clint Eastwood’s direction. J. Edgar is either a subversive undermining of the legacy of the controversial FBI head (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) or a biography without any aim. The question arises because Black’s script views history as an extended rumor (Hoover’s personal life goes through the wringer) while Eastwood plays the gossipy material with a solemnity that undermines the tabloid feel. The narrative covers Hoover’s expansive career, which offers plenty of opportunities for either Black or Eastwood to make a definitive statement about their subject, but alas, there is none. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and DVD/Blu-ray Combo.
Oh boy, another sports movie about an underdog team beating the odds and saving the day. This kind of material can work, but The Mighty Macs toils to ensure that it does not. Carla Gugino plays a full-time wife who decides to assert her independence by becoming the basketball coach at a Catholic college that is financial trouble. Gugino’s character isn’t a character but a collection of traits of hard-as-nails-but-really-caring coaches from countless other stories like this. My review is here. Available on DVD.
Tom (Martin Sheen) decides to walk the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route that still draws people, after his son (played by writer/director Emilio Estevez, who is, of course Sheen’s real-life son) dies doing the same. There’s lots and lots of walking. There’s dialogue that’s either bumper-sticker philosophy or wholly expository. There are characters that exist as walking, talking clichés. Did I mention the endless walking? It’s drivel–well-intentioned, sure, but still drivel. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.